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Sports minister pays tribute to Jean de Villiers

Fikile Mbalula has described de Villiers as a true leader and a soldier who got injured while on duty.

FILE: Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula has paid tribute to Springbok captain Jean de Villiers who has been ruled out of the remainder of the Rugby World Cup.

The 109 time capped Bok skipper has been ruled out after suffering a fracture to his jaw in the Pool B match against Samoa in Birmingham yesterday.

It's the fourth time that injury has curtailed the 34-year-old centre's involvement in a world cup.

Mbalula says Springbok rugby will miss their inspirational leader.

"Jean de Villiers is a great leader and a patriot to be celebrated all the time. He put his body on the line despite criticism and he has shown great leadership quality."

The minister has described de Villiers as a true leader.

"It is a setback for South Africa and for him. I wish him a speedy recovery. He was a soldier that was injured on duty trying to do better for his country, his family and everybody."

Meanwhile, former Springbok captain Corne Krige has also described de Villiers' injury as a massive setback for the team.

De Villiers made a remarkable recovery from a serious knee injury sustained in November last year, and a fractured jaw last month to make the world cup squad.

Krige says it's a devastating blow.

"That's a massive setback for Jean after coming back from a horrific knee injury and a cracked jaw and to be so unlucky and injured again on the second game. It's actually beyond believe, he must be devastated."

He says de Villier's absence will be felt.

"Heyneke has stuck with Jean, put all that confidence in him and I think the team relies on him in a big way. But I think after their win against Samoa their spirits will be a lot higher."

DE VILLIERS NO STRANGER TO WORLD CUP INJURIES

The 34-year-old Paarl Gymnasium alumnus' Springbok career has been riddled with injury, but it's been the quadrennial Rugby World Cup that has been most unkind to de Villiers.

De Villiers has been selected for four World Cups, and at each one he suffered an injury.

He made his first senior-level appearance for South Africa in November 2002 against France, but suffered a major knee injury five minutes into the game.

The veteran centre would go on to miss the 2003 World Cup in Australia as a result. The 2007 tournament, which the Springboks won in France was no different for him.

He won the World Cup with South Africa, although he tore his biceps during the opening game of the tournament and took no further part.

Four years later at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, injury was once again waiting for him. In New Zealand he played just 25 minutes in the first game against Wales when he popped a rib.

He recovered and played the last Pool B game from the bench against Samoa. It was still to be a bad ending for him as the Boks crashed to defeat against Australia in the quarter final.

His provincial and Super Rugby career at Western Province and the Stormers wasn't sparred either, missing large chunks of the 2015 season and previous years with various injuries, including a troublesome wrist niggle.

An announcement on the Springboks captaincy for the match against Scotland on 3 October will be made on Wednesday.

Visit the Eyewitness News special Rugby World Cup 2015 portal.

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